There is a lot of cool gear in the golf equipment world that doesn’t always fit neatly into Most Wanted Tests or Buyer’s Guides. You still want to know how it performs. In our We Tried It series, we put gear to the test and let you know if it works as advertised.
What We Tried
The Oura Ring
The Ring Bearer
Dave Wolfe – MyGolfSpy writer and putter fanatic. I am always looking for ways to improve my game and fight off the impact of aging.
Does Sleep Affect Your Score?
How’s your sleep these days? Do you wake up feeling rested? Did you have sweet dreams or did you have that recurring math test nightmare? Is coffee the only way that you even function in the morning?
Sleep is a hardwired human activity yet it is an activity that many of us truly don’t understand. We usually assess sleep in a very qualitative way. All of us have all tried to get a “good” night of sleep before a big day and have all felt exhausted after “bad” night of sleep.. Even if we can’t quantify sleep scientifically, we have all experienced the wide-ranging effects of our sleep cycles.
But what if you could record quantitative data about your sleep? What if you could identify and remove the factors that negatively impact your sleep? It stands to reason that you would be sleeping better. Because sleep has such a huge impact on our waking hours activities, shouldn’t improving one’s sleep also improve daytime performance?
Ultimately, this train of thought drew me to the Oura ring, prompting me to wonder …
“Could I sleep my way to lower golf scores?”
What is the Oura Ring All About?
The Oura Ring hit my radar during the 2020 NBA playoffs. That pandemic, pre-vaccine playoff season had all the teams isolated in a bubble to try and prevent COVID-19 infections. I remember reading about a ring the players were wearing that could possibly work as an early detection system for infection by monitoring subtle changes in body temperature. That ring was the Oura Ring.
In those early days of the pandemic, any mechanism for detecting infection was newsworthy. I dove a bit deeper into the Oura Ring story and came to realize body temperature sensing was a secondary measurement recorded by the ring. The primary job of the Oura Ring was to assess sleep.
Since I was sleeping OK at the time, the ring slipped from my consciousness. However, in the months that followed, my sleep began to deteriorate. Maybe due to stress, maybe diet, maybe exercise or maybe a combination of all of that. All I know is that, in my tired state, golf was often more an exercise in endurance rather than enjoyment. My scores and sanity were headed in the wrong direction.
At this point, I remembered the Oura Ring and was ready to see if it could give me some analysis and suggestions.
Testing the Oura Ring: Getting Started
Like with golf clubs, fitting is key. If you don’t know your ring size, the best place to start the Oura Ring process is with the fitting kit. This kit includes plastic Oura Ring replicas of various sizes. The kit allows you to try the different sizes of rings on various fingers. Once you find a size that works, Oura suggests wearing it for a few days to make sure the ring is comfortable. Sleeping with the ring on is also strongly suggested. Once the size is determined, you can order your real ring.
I went with a larger diameter ring that was able to fit on four different fingers—both index fingers and both middle fingers. Ultimately, I went this direction figuring that the versatility would allow me to find the finger most comfortable for golf and other activities.
Once the Oura Ring arrives, you can quickly charge it up on the included USB-C connected base unit. This is not something you need do often as the charge can last for weeks. From there, you just wear the ring. The ring will record your movements during the day like other fitness trackers and record all kinds of data while you sleep. The Oura app will then analyze your sleep data and give you a readiness score for the next day. Obviously, sleep quality and readiness are connected.
While the ring is taking measurements constantly, one of the most significant things it does is analyze patterns over time. For this, you may need to wear the ring for a few weeks so it can learn your “normal” values. Deviations from normal then show up as alerts, going back to how the ring could potentially sense illness by deviations in temperature.
Testing the Oura Ring: Sleep
I was pretty fired up to sleep with the Oura Ring on that first night and even more excited to see my scores the next day. As it turned out, I crushed it that night.
According to the ring, my sleep was solid and I should be ready to dominate all activities the next day. The only sleep metric in the red zone was Restfulness, a score for wake-ups, excessive movement and getting up from bed during your sleep. This score is the one responsible for sleeping all night yet still feeling tired the next day. Possible influences on the score are bed conditions, evening food and alcohol, and evening screen time.
Night after night, all other scores were good but Restfulness stayed in the red. With this metric in mind, I started altering my evening plan. First, I removed the foam mattress topper that could be making me too warm at night. Next, I tried to avoid late-evening snacks and drinks. Finally, I reduced the evening screen time or made sure to wear blue-light blocking glasses while watching.
After about a month of these switches, my Restfulness score is still always in the red. I guess that is just how I sleep.
Testing the Oura Ring: Fitness and Health
As a fitness tracker, I’m not over the moon about the Oura Ring. It has some cool features, like the correlation of daily calorie burn to your Readiness score. The issue for me is that all fitness tracking needs to be accessed through the app. History has shown I am much more successful with a tracker if it gives me visual feedback. I want to watch LED lights progress with calories burned or something like that. The minimalist nature of the ring really doesn’t allow for this. It is great at keeping track of what you do and will send alerts to your phone to get you moving. All this functionality does require the app, though.
That said, the health data tracked by the app is fascinating. One of the ways it computes Readiness is by monitoring your resting heart rate and body temperature while you sleep. Should either be elevated, the app will suggest you take it easy as elevated heart rate and/or temperature could indicate your body has not totally recovered yet.
The Oura Ring app also has a recovery mode setting you can use when you feel sick or after an injury. It monitors your recuperation and gives you physiology data to help you quantify your recovery.
Testing the Oura Ring: Golf
Let’s revisit the idea that I could sleep my way to better scores. Did I find a strong correlation between my readiness scores and my golf scores?
The most obvious correlation was when I was up late one Saturday night and had an 8 a.m. tee time the next day. I got a total of five hours of sleep, featuring a snoring wife and adult beverages the evening before. No surprise—golf was a struggle. I played the same course again the next day, this time with a solid night of sleep and an optimal Readiness score, and was three shots better than the day before.
I would have scored even lower but my recurring back injury flared up on the 16th. Obviously, my bogey/par/double finish had nothing to do with sleep.
As I continued to look at sleep and scores, I can see how sleep is one of the influencers on my scoring but so many other factors can affect the round as well. I can still make bad swings when well rested and good swings when tired. Sleep is a foundational element, though. I firmly believe using the data provided by the Oura Ring will improve my overall sleep/health and that will improve my golf game. That said, I don’t think the Readiness score will always correlate with high or low rounds.
Here’s one other suggestion if you are thinking about adding the Oura Ring to your golf arsenal. Make sure you play with the fitting kit rings on before ordering a particular size. This will help you figure out which finger is best for your grip. It may be that you can’t comfortably play with a ring on any of your fingers. This would be a good thing to figure out before buying one.
As a sleep tool, I am a fan of the Oura Ring. I know my sleep awareness and overall sleep have improved since I’ve been wearing the ring. Some of you may already track your sleep using your Apple Watch or FitBit and probably don’t want to invest in a $300 ring. Maybe you are now thinking, “At that price, I’d rather buy an Apple Watch.”
I don’t fault you one bit. The Apple Watch’s versatility will win that “bang for the buck” contest every time.
However, if you are specifically looking at sleep data, the fact that the Oura Ring is a ring is a huge selling point. I cannot sleep with a watch on so tracking sleep with one would be a non-starter. The Oura Ring is comfortable, light and has yet to wake me up during the night. I suppose the value really comes down to how well are you sleeping right now.
Overall, the Oura Ring has given me great insight into my sleep patterns and some tools to improve my overall sleep. Can it predict when I will go low the next day? Maybe not but I’m definitely not playing a big-money round if the Oura Ring says that I should be spending the day resting.
Find out more about the Oura Ring at ouraring.com.